WASHINGTON — The decision by President-elect Clinton and his wife, Hillary, to enroll their daughter in an exclusive private school has triggered some controversy.
The Clintons announced Tuesday that Chelsea Clinton will enroll in Washington's exclusive $10,000-a-year Sidwell Friends School rather than in a public school. The District of Columbia's schools are reportedly among the nation's most dangerous and lowest achieving.
The decision was "the right choice for Chelsea" and not a rejection of public schools, Clinton spokesman George Stephanopoulos said Tuesday.
But transferring the eighth-grader from an Arkansas public school to a private school here was hardly confidence-building public relations for the city's predominantly black school system, which had offered to let Chelsea attend any school in the city. The last child to live in the White House, Amy Carter, attended D.C. public schools.
Advocates of school choice - the voucher system that aims to equalize education opportunity by allowing public education funds to follow students to the public or private school of their choice - are gloating about the decision.
Mr. Clinton's choice of a private school only underscores the desires of many inner-city parents who would prefer their children not attend inner-city public schools, says Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Institute for Justice, which helps low-income parents sue for school choice.
Clinton, who enjoys substantial political support from public-school teachers unions, supports a limited version of choice among public schools, but opposes the tax support of private schools.
"We really feel Bill Clinton has betrayed a remarkable hypocrisy by sending his own daughter to a private school while denying that same choice to other parents," Mr. Bolick says.
Several large public teachers unions, however, issued statements supporting Clinton's decision. And the mayor of Washington, Sharon Pratt Kelly, said in a statement that she respected the Clintons' decision.
"Bill Clinton is a national leader in educational reform and has always shown a commitment to public education," the Democratic mayor said. "I wish Chelsea a successful school year."